Third-generation barber Mike Amyx struggled to sell a bill overhauling state licensing standards that fell to defeat like a chunk of hair chopped off with sharp scissors.
Amyx, a freshman Democratic House member from Lawrence, failed to convince the Republican-led House to accept style and substance of House Bill 2383, which banned displays of barber poles under certain circumstances, added a third licensing examination, escalated inspection, testing and licensing fees, and raised the minimum age for official barbers to 18.
It also would have created a senior barber license, available for $50, to a person no longer working in that occupation, but who was a barber for at least 40 years and was at least 70 years old.
"This is a very good bill," Amyx said. "Barbers throughout this state are very proud to have their professional Kansas Board of Barbering."
It was Amyx's first opportunity to carry a bill on the House floor. He had to endure traditionally modest hazing from Democratic colleagues before reality of the opposition took root. That occurred when Rep. Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, shared distaste for a bill his Republican colleagues viewed as a grotesque overreach by state government.
"All kidding aside," Huebert said, "I don't think this bill is necessary."
Rep. Boog Highberger, a Lawrence Democrat who gets his hair cut at Amyx's shop in downtown Lawrence, apologized to his barber for offering an amendment Tuesday certain to intensify frustration of conservatives leaning against the barbering bill.
He was drawn to a section prohibiting barbering schools from discriminating against student applicants on the basis of race, religion, color, sex or disability. He proposed an amendment adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes.
"I see no reason why our fellow citizens of all sexual identities and gender identifications should be allowed to be discriminated against by schools of barbering," Highberger said. "I know this body doesn't like discrimination."
Amyx stepped to a microphone to frame it as a "friendly" amendment, a signal from the barbering community that it wasn't a bill killer.
In response, a majority in the House bellowed "no" to the amendment. On a roll-call vote on the amendment, it failed 58-61.
Amyx again pleaded for approval of the bill cobbled together by the House General Government Budget Committee. It wasn't close. The House rejected the legislation 42-71.
"There is a lot going on in this bill," said Rep. Tory Arnberger, R-Great Bend.
One section would have deleted from the state's definition of barbering a requirement that services addressed hair "upon the upper part of the body." However, it would have expanded the definition of barbering to include shaving of a head, face or neck with a razor.
Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, said he was concerned with a portion of the bill related to the red, white and blue vertical cylinders otherwise known as barber poles. Apparently, authors of the bill wanted to prohibit, under threat of a maximum $1,000 fine, anyone from using a barber pole or its facsimile at a location where people weren't licensed to provide haircuts.
"Am I reading this correctly?" Highland said. "We are now saying the barber pole only belongs to the barbers — it's going to be a fine if you have one installed? Even in your private residence?"
Arnberger said legislative staff members indicated only a licensed barber could display a barber pole.
The bill also would have eliminated from state law a mandate that anyone seeking to take a barbering licensing exam had to be of "good moral character and temperate habits." It wouldn't have stripped the Kansas Barbering Board of its power to issue subpoenas to people suspected of violating barbering laws, but it would give targets five days to protest.